The EBSAs are special areas in the ocean that serve important purposes, in one way or another, to support the healthy functioning of oceans and the many services that it provides.
The ocean is under increasing threat from various human activities. The most pressing threats come from overﬁshing, destructive ﬁshing practices, and illegal, unreported and unregulated ﬁshing activities. Other emerging problems include marine debris, ship-based marine pollution, transfer of alien invasive species, illegal dumping and the legacy of historical dumping, seabed mineral extraction, and noise pollution.
The combined impacts of these threats as well as the potential impacts of climate change and ocean acidiﬁcation have placed thousands of species at risk of extinction, and have impaired the structure, function, productivity and resilience of marine ecosystems.
At the present time, the world's oceans are seriously underprotected, with only approximately 0.8% of the oceans and 6% of territorial seas being within protected area systems. Measures are being taken to increase protection and sustainable management. In order to support effective policy action by countries and competent international and regional organizations, it is critical to build a sound understanding of the most ecologically and biologically important ocean areas that support healthy marine ecosystems.